Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took to the road this week to tout the advanced security technologies in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and other security-oriented products Microsoft plans to release this year. In Seattle on Tuesday, he presented a stirring motivational speech to 1300 Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs). Then he jetted off to Washington, D.C., where he met with US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Tom Ridge and spoke to several hundred IT professionals at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Ballmer's message was all about security. He described XP SP2's pervasive security-oriented features, such as the new Windows Firewall, and how Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) will be able to block pop-up ads and unsolicited downloads from Web sites. But looking a bit further down the road, Ballmer also previewed what Microsoft calls active protection technologies, a set of integrated tools that will proactively protect computer systems. In one example of these technologies called behavior blocking, Windows-based PCs will automatically raise security settings when they detect errant code and will then alert users to the danger.
But Ballmer is also pushing a more heuristic message, noting that individual users and IT departments need to be proactive about security problems. "The best lock in the world is useless if the front door is left open or the key is under the mat," he said, noting that firewalls and antivirus applications need to be installed, updated, and running all the time. XP SP2 will include an on-by-default firewall, but users will still need to purchase antivirus software to complete the security picture. Ballmer noted that XP SP2 integrates with several popular antivirus packages.
Ballmer has no problem comparing the security record of his company's products with Linux and open-source products. He noted--correctly--that Windows systems are targets because they command 95 percent of the market. "If there are one or two or three operating systems that have some high percentage of the market, then hackers will go after one or two or three operating systems," he said. "Our products are often the prime targets for these criminals but security is bigger than anything we do." He also correctly pointed out that the Linux community, despite owning a smaller share of the market, is responsible for more security vulnerabilities and has a record of fixing those problems more slowly than Microsoft fixes its security problems.
In related news, Microsoft kicked off a 20-city security tour this week, hoping to reach 500,000 customers and sell them on the importance of security and, specifically, XP SP2. Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business Unit, is keynoting the events, during which he will also tout future security-oriented products. Those products include Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004, Windows Server 2003 SP1 (both due this year), and Advanced Client Inspection, a feature that will debut in Windows 2003 SP1 or in Windows 2003 Release 2 (R2), which is due in 2005. Microsoft will also ship a unified patch infrastructure that will drive new versions of Windows Update Services and a new service called Microsoft Update, which will automatically update a broader spectrum of products beyond Windows. These systems will go live sometime this year, Nash said